Recently, the Seoul municipal government of South Korea released the metaverse Seoul five year plan (hereinafter referred to as the “plan”), announcing that from 2022, it will build a metaverse administrative service ecology in all business fields of the municipal government, such as economy, culture, tourism, education, letters and visits, etc.
The word metaverse (metaverse) was born in the science fiction snow crash. After the book was published in 1992, it was highly praised. However, it did not want the layout of the virtual world described in the book to become an “oasis” and a business opportunity 30 years later.
On March 10 this year, roblox, the sandbox game platform, as the first company to write the concept of “metaverse” into the prospectus, successfully landed on the New York Stock Exchange. On the first day of listing, the market value exceeded US $40 billion, detonating the technology and capital circle. Since then, Internet giants such as Facebook have smelled the business opportunities and made large bets in this field.
Today, in addition to the scientific and technological community, the business community, the capital community, and even government departments are beginning to imagine a future built by metaverse. The above plan put forward by Seoul makes South Korea the first country in the “metaverse” boom to incorporate this concept into urban planning and combine it with traditional government affairs.
Huang Fei, director Professor of the University of Seoul comprehensive graduate school of science, said in an interview with first finance and economics that under the epidemic situation, the current situation of non-contact society continues, so it is not difficult to understand the fact that metaverse is very sought after by capital, “but the rise of metaverse began with games, and now it is necessary to expand to other fields. First of all, it is necessary to go out of Pan entertainment.”
“Metaverse Seoul” program
According to Korean media reports, the plan, known as “metaverse Seoul”, is divided into three steps: it is planned to “start” in 2022, further “expand” from 2023 to 2024, and finally “complete” from 2025 to 2026. Among them, in 2022, the platform will be built through the first stage of work, and services in seven fields such as economy, education and tourism will be introduced. The total investment is planned to be 3.9 billion won (about 20.87 million yuan).
According to the plan, the Seoul municipal government will successively provide various business support facilities and services on the metaverse platform, including the virtual mayor’s office, Seoul financial technology laboratory, Seoul investment and Seoul campus city.
Recently, Seoul mayor Wu Shixun fully imagined the city of metaverse. For example, there will be a “metaverse mayor’s room” in the future to provide convenience for citizens to communicate with the mayor and the mayor to listen to opinions and suggestions. The Seoul municipal government hopes to make this a communication space open to citizens at any time.
In addition, Seoul will build a virtual public service center – “metaverse 120 center”. At that time, various business applications and consulting services can be handled on the metaverse platform. At the same time, “metaverse intelligent work platform” will make all municipal work in the post epidemic era no longer restricted by time and space, and can be completed by using network virtual space. It is reported that the platform will also introduce AI civil servants, which will provide more professional, efficient and intelligent services for the public together with the virtual doubles of civil servants.
While facilitating government affairs, Seoul will also launch a “Seoul financial technology laboratory” based on metaverse, which will copy the Seoul financial technology laboratory previously built in Yoido to the metaverse platform to form an online and offline industrial cluster. Meanwhile, the Seoul investment center, which aims to attract foreign investment, will also be equipped with metaverse technology and transformed into a “metaverse investment in Seoul” project, so as to strengthen the efforts to attract investment for Seoul through online virtual technology.
In addition to government affairs and attracting investment, Seoul will also build a virtual special tourism zone through metaverse technology to move Seoul’s well-known scenic spots, such as Guanghuamen square, Deshou palace and nandamen market to the platform. At the same time, some traditional festival celebrations and large museum exhibitions with Korean characteristics will also be on the metaverse platform. In the words of Korean media, even if it is impossible to visit the scene in person, metaverse technology can shorten the distance between tourists from all countries and Korean traditional culture.
Just over a month later, as the first demonstration project of the “metaverse five year plan”, the bell ringing ceremony of Puxin Pavilion, which leaves the old year and welcomes the new year in Seoul, will be held on the metaverse platform. As a traditional activity, many citizens and tourists gather in front of Puxin Pavilion before 0:00 on New Year’s day every year to wait for the New Year bell. It can be predicted that the bell ringing ceremony in 2022 will be somewhat special.
“Icing on the cake” or “icing on the cake”?
For the current hot concept of metaverse, Huang Fei believes that the global capital liquidity is abundant under the epidemic, and many retail investors are very eager to invest in new targets, so it is not difficult to understand that the metaverse related funds launched at this time have been sought after by retail investors. The Korean market has also become the preferred market for investors to bet on metaverse technology in addition to the United States. At present, South Korea has become the fastest-growing global market of metaverse concept ETF (trading open-end Index Fund). In October alone, South Korea launched four new ETFs focusing on metaverse. According to Morgan Stanley, South Korea’s metaverse concept ETF attracted a total of US $278 million this year, a considerable part of which came in at the end of October and early November.
So, what is the response of the Korean people to the unprecedented measures of the Seoul municipal government in the field of metaverse?
An ordinary South Korean citizen told China business through social media that he thought Seoul’s “metaverse Five-Year Plan” was a “cake to satisfy hunger” plan. “3.9 billion won is only equivalent to a 100 square meter apartment (price) in Jiangnan area of Seoul. It’s a bit of a joke to regard this as a long-term investment plan”.
In his view, Wu Shixun’s time to throw this plan is worth pondering, because the Korean political arena will usher in a five year general election next March. “It is still unknown whether Wu Shixun can be reelected. Even if he is re elected, the majority of the current Seoul Parliament are Democrats, not the Wu Shixun of the national power party has the final say.”
For Huang Fei, who has lived in South Korea for more than ten years, her biggest feeling is that the municipal services in Seoul are actually very electronic. “Even without a virtual city like metaverse, citizens can complete various government services online without leaving home.”
She said: “on this basis, the launch of metaverse municipal service platform may be ‘icing on the cake’ or ‘icing on the cake’, because metaverse is a platform that emphasizes immersive experience and entertainment, which is not necessary for most citizens who only need municipal services.”
In Huang Fei’s view, the Seoul municipal government has been keeping pace with the times in the field of information technology and actively trying all kinds of new things. For example, in 2018, the Seoul municipal government launched the zero pay project, which aims to alleviate the burden of mobile payment fees for 660000 individual retail heads in Seoul.
However, Huang Fei also pointed out: “after the launch of the project, the market response was not very enthusiastic. Not only only did only 1 / 3 of the participating merchants, but fewer consumers actually used it. The reason is that the government’s kindness was not fully realized into services, and consumers did not pay.” therefore, she believes that the lessons learned from the zero pay project have a strong warning effect on the current metaverse municipal administration.
“It may attract the attention of some young users. In addition, many foreign tourists can’t come to Korea under the epidemic. Moving the tourism industry to the metaverse platform should achieve a good effect in urban publicity,” Huang Fei said, “But the effect can only be achieved if most people are involved, but for most Seoul people, it is already very convenient to use e-government. In addition, if the government wants to take out citizens’ taxes alone to build metaverse platform, once citizens do not enjoy the enough benefits brought by metaverse, it will also cause a lot of criticism.”
Looking forward to the future, Huang Fei pointed out that to build metaverse, it actually requires a large initial investment. At present, some service platforms similar to roblox, such as ifland and gathertown, have begun to launch conference room and online space services. Huang Fei’s sense of use experience is that enterprises and schools need to invest in building the content in this virtual world, “The current sense of experience is not very immersive, so the concept of metaverse still stays in the stage of capital speculation, but fortunately, some large enterprises have begun to layout, seize the opportunity and start from building a platform.”